Ag burn near Sanger grows into grass fire, threatens homes

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There was a dusty inferno above Kings River Bottom with smoke traveling for miles and ash filling the air. The scene drew out cautious neighbors outside to watch the spirals of smoke. (KFSN)

A controlled burn south of Sanger morphed into a large-scale vegetation fire Friday. Fresno County firefighters remain on scene fighting for containment.

There was a dusty inferno above Kings River Bottom with smoke traveling for miles and ash filling the air. The scene drew out cautious neighbors outside to watch the spirals of smoke.

"As the day went on I've been working outside, it just got bigger and bigger," neighbor Terry Hillblom said. "Finally, my curiosity got the best of me.

Within hours, the fire expanded to 60 acres. Deputies evacuated 15 homes. At times, the flames jumped the road and embers fell on roofs - leaving those south of Fantz Avenue uneasy.

"On this side, everything is green, except for these spots right here, so I hope they've got everything under control," neighbor Arul Garcia said.

The fire started in the fields, where several people watching a controlled ag burn lost control. Firefighters said the winds picked up and carried the flames to forested areas nearby.

"We had 100, 150 Oak trees that were falling in the perimeter, some 30, 40, 50-feet tall," Cal Fire Batt. Chief Michael Bowman said. "We had brush 20-feet tall, this is probably an area that hasn't seen human improvement for over 50 years."

The growers had a permit to burn but investigators are looking to see if there was negligence. In that case, the landowner could be fined money or even charged.

"Be very wary of the wind condition or the weather in the coming days," Bowman said. "You are responsible for the land around you."

There were no injuries or damages to homes but neighbors say watching the columns of smoke approach was enough of a scare to remember for a long time.

"This is my first time," Garcia said. "Hopefully, it's my last time."
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